ROYAL ASCOT: Hannon's Toronado lands Queen Anne triumph
COLLINGBOURE Ducis trainer Richard Hannon admitted to a palpable sense of relief after Toronado lived up to every possible expectation in the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot.
Despite having not seen a racecourse for 300 days, much was demanded of the High Chaparral colt, whose connections could hardly have been more ebullient in the build-up to the meeting's curtain-raiser.
Be that as it may, the burden of expectation must have been oppressive for the Wiltshire handler, who was having his first Royal runner after his father, Richard Hannon snr, passed on the baton to become his son's assistant.
The Hannons need not have worried. Toronado was outstanding.
"That's taken the pressure off massively," said Hannon, who has bases at Everleigh and Herridge.
"It's lovely to get the meeting off to a start like that.
"The car's parked outside and I might go now and leave the rest of it up to my assistant."
It will have become apparent to Hannon from an early stage of the Queen Anne that Richard Hughes' companion was in a most combative frame of mind.
The 4-5 favourite nonchalantly tracked pacemaker Mull Of Killough and a clutch of other horses from some way off the pace, and did not show any discernible traits of keenness which have occasionally blotted an otherwise fine copybook.
French challenger Anodin was the first of the protagonists to make a decisive move a furlong and a half from home, at which stage he was joined in unison by eventual runner-up Verrazano.
The landscape of the Group One soon shifted markedly, though, as Toronado ghosted clear on the outside of that duo, stretching three-quarters of a length clear without Hughes ever having to get too serious in the saddle.
Next up for the Al Shaqab Racing-owned four-year-old is an attempt at winning back-to-back renewals of the Sussex Stakes on July 30.
Worryingly for his rivals at Goodwood, Hannon believes Toronado will have made even more progress by next month.
He said: "I thought he blew up 100 yards towards the line, but he got the job done well.
"He will have needed that run and will improve a fair bit for it.
"We'll stick to a mile with him. The Sussex Stakes is highly likely, there's also the Marois, but Olympic Glory will probably run in that, and then later there's the QEII.
"He's always looked superhuman. He's a gorgeous-looking horse."
Marlborough jockey Hughes went on to partner Sole Power, as the brilliant sprinter secured back-to-back victories in the King's Stand Stakes.
But he and Hannon's Night of Thunder were defeated by old rivals Kingman in the St James's Palace Stakes.
The John Gosden-trained Kingman was a hot favourite for the Qipco 2000 Guineas after blowing away Hannon's horse in the Greenham Stakes, but the latter turned the form around with a 40-1 victory on the Rowley Mile.
Night Of Thunder ran a perfectly respectable race in second, but was no match for the winner on the day.
Hannon said of the runner-up: "He ran well but was beaten fair and square.Looking at that he might get 10 furlongs. I think the winner probably has a bit more of a turn of foot than us."
Hughes confirmed it was his intention to make the running.
He told Racing UK: "Our understanding was that the Greenham was very slow and Kingman beat us and the Guineas was very fast and we beat him.
"I was drawn one, there were two 50-1 shots drawn two and three and James (Doyle) was drawn in seven, so he was always going to get the clear run down the outside and I didn't want to be stuck behind and let him get the first run.
"I thought 'why can't I make the running and let me go first'? I got it nice and easy, I kicked first and I couldn't believe one went by me as I was still quickening when he (Kingman) passed me.
"My horse has run a hell of a race - the way we've pulled clear. I think the winner is possibly a July Cup winner and we can go to the Eclipse."
Asked how he thought Kingman would fare against his earlier winner Toronado in a potential clash, Hughes said: "He (Kingman) has a super turn of foot, there's no doubt about that and he'd be receiving weight.
"The way he came by me, he's the best miler around at the moment."
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